The time and effort needed to design, configure and maintain machinery and equipment is coming under greater scrutiny, especially as systems become more connected and complex. Fortunately, better integration between the automation controller and system devices is providing new time- and cost-saving opportunities.
This integration can be achieved by programming controllers, configuring devices and managing maintenance activities all within a single software environment.
Whether you're a machine and equipment builder, system integrator or end user, this consolidation can simplify system designs, cut development time and costs, and support faster deployments. It also gives end users better access to production intelligence.
In fact, a recent survey found that 64 percent of industrial manufacturers said this integrated programming experience helped them reduce engineering time, and 63 percent said it helped them achieve improved diagnostics.
The use of devices from multiple vendors in more connected systems creates challenges in getting devices to communicate to each other and synchronize their operations.
During integration, engineers often are forced to use multiple software tools and reference manuals for information, such as the amount of data exchanged between the device and controller. Additionally, the data from field devices is usually provided in tables without descriptions or context. As a result, engineers must create descriptive variables or tags to bring meaning to each parameter.
During configuration, engineers are limited to only access the data that has been mapped in the controller. Users must ensure that the appropriate parameters in the devices have been selected for mapping in the controller. Additional parameters relevant to the operation of the device will very likely require a separate tool for configuration.
Further challenges arise when a system is operational. Devices too often lack helpful diagnostics or other information to help operators and technicians stay on top of maintenance issues. Another challenge can occur when a controller is expecting a certain amount of device data, and the device is configured differently. This mismatch creates an I/O connection error in the program and can become a persistent nuisance for programmers.
With controller-device integration, the controller recognizes devices being integrated and automatically retrieves their profiles. The engineer only needs to select the specific device type. The design software will then pull the relevant device parameters.
The software also can auto-populate descriptive tag names and tag types. This eliminates hours or even days of engineering time spent manually entering information for each variable provided by the field device. Devices also can be copied and pasted to create duplicate devices in the same system. The software will automatically transfer the descriptive device's tag names and configuration settings.
When a system is operational, capturing and delivering information between a controller and devices is inherent to the system. End users gain access to valuable diagnostics, faults, alarms and other critical event information. They can use this information to make better decisions and proactively address downtime issues.
If a device needs to be replaced, technicians can use automatic-device-configuration capabilities to instantly detect new devices. For example, a managed Ethernet switch can automatically reassign the IP address for a new device, and the controller can then download the configuration parameters to get the system back online faster.
To learn more about how to simplify system designs and boost productivity, download our new white paper: “Premier Integration: Simplify system design and programming, cut development time and boost productivity using advanced integration capabilities."